Road to London includes University of Toronto and Mauritius

Going to the Olympics has been a longtime dream for Elodie Li Yu Lo. She recalls watching the Atlanta Games in 1996 and even told her friends she wanted to compete there someday. At that point, Lo loved all sports but was heavily into swimming and softball, imagining her Olympic debut to take place in the swimming pool.

But when Lo participates in the Opening Ceremonies in London this summer, it will be as one-half of the beach Elodie Li Yuk Lo 2volleyball team representing her home country of Mauritius. Though born on the tiny African island near Madagascar, Lo and her family moved to Toronto, Canada, at age six and she maintains dual citizenship.

The volleyball aspect is not so foreign to Lo, given the fact she has played the indoor version of the sport since age 12. She played club teams and on her high school team, then played at the University of Toronto while working on two bachelor’s degrees, one in education and one in physical health and education.

“I traveled to Mauritius to find a beach partner, but I couldn’t find anyone.”

Lo’s college coach, Kristine Drakich, recommended that her players take up beach volleyball during off seasons and summers to keep them active and in the game. It was new to Lo and relatively new in the area, but she jumped in with both feet. When her college career was coming to a close, Lo was considering her future options and began considering continuing in beach volleyball.

“I traveled to Mauritius in 2006 to find a beach partner, hoping we could qualify for the 2008 Olympics, but I couldn’t find anyone,” she recalls, adding that she ended up playing for the national indoor team and competed in the 2007 Island Games, then came back to Toronto to work. “I was disappointed that there was no partner but I didn’t want to give up. I worked up a proposal for someone interested in playing and put it out all over Mauritius, but I didn’t get a response until the summer of 2008.”

Elodie action at RwandaAn email from Mauritius native Natacha Rigobert, who was then living in France, hit Lo’s spam filter, and she just happened to check the folder instead of automatically deleting the box as was her habit. The two connected in France and decided to compete that year. They trained for 10 days, then traveled to Norway for their first competition as a pair.

Duet finds success after short training

The two did well, and Lo returned to Toronto for a teaching job, returning to France the next summer to train and compete in three tournaments with Rigobert. She moved in 2010 to train full-time and play daily, intent on beginning the nearly year-long process of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. The pair had their first tournament in January 2011 and claimed gold at the continental finals in Rwanda in May 2012 to punch their ticket to London officially.

“I still have to pinch myself now and then; I’m not sure it’s hit me,” Lo says with a laugh. “It’s such a crazy feeling to realize the dream is actually coming true. It feels great to represent the country where I was born and still have lots of family.”

Volleyball ironically would also open the door for Lo to begin a real relationship with God, solving a lifelong internal battle. She had been in church since childhood, but her sports usually conflicted with mass time.

“I always felt like I had to choose between my sport and my faith.”

“I always felt like I had to choose between my sport and my faith, and I felt guilty that we had a lot of games on weekend and missed church. I didn’t know how to do both,” she recalls.

Lo met Athletes in Action staff member Morgan Donaldson in Toronto when she came to visit the university volleyball team that Lo was then helping to coach. Learning how to worship God while playing sports, opened her eyes and her heart. She began walking with the Lord from that point.

“Meeting (Donaldson) and learning how to integrate both my faith and sport was an amazing blessing. The fact that you could use sport as a ministry was really nice to know as well,” she says. “After that, it was a huge weight lifted off of me. Before, I was sort of idolizing my sport, and through the teaching, I learned that I could use my sport to glorify and praise the Lord and play for Him as an “Audience of One,” instead of trying to please my coach, my parents or my teammates.”

Lo said she is keeping herself open to how God will use her in the Olympic Games and she wants to “use as many opportunities as possible to shine the light.” She is encouraged by other bold Christian athletes and hopes to someday build the same confidence that will enable her to use her platform for God’s glory.

By Teresa Young, AIA Communication

Photo Source FIVB: Top, Elodie Li Yuk Lo (right) and her volleyball partner Natacha Rigobert consult during a competition. Bottom, Lo (left) prepares to bump the served ball from the opposing team during a recent tournament. by teresa young 13. July 2012 09:35